Optimism on Greece, ECB, lifts shares, euro

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Optimism on Greece, ECB, lifts shares, euro

LONDON - European shares hit fresh 13-month highs and the euro climbed on Tuesday, lifted by hopes that meetings on Greece’s future this week and new crisis plans being drawn up by the European Central Bank will see the euro zone take control of its debt problems.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Tue 21 Aug 2012, 3:51 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 12:53 PM

European shares, which have risen 16 percent since June, were up 0.5 percent by mid-morning, with the main indices in London, Paris and Frankfurt all in positive territory.

After modest rises in Asia the MSCI global share index was up 0.4 percent at 0930 GMT, while the euro hit a two-week high of $1.2398 versus the dollar and climbed further against the yen and sterling.

“The dollar is weaker versus the euro ahead of the key meetings this week that may provide clarity on both the immediate outlook for Greece and the outlook in regard to the ECB’s plan to buy sovereign bonds,” said Derek Halpenny of Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi.

“That optimism is persisting today.”

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker this week to try and secure more funding from the European Union, International Monetary Fund and ECB, even though Greece has fallen behind on its debt cut targets.

Markets have enjoyed a strong run over the last few weeks on hopes that the new urgency in Europe to overcome its 2-1/2 year debt crisis may allow Greece to remain in euro and keep the bloc from unravelling.

Investors are primarily looking for any clues on plans the ECB is due to detail at the start of December, expected to involve heavy Spanish and Italian bond buying if Madrid and Rome admit themselves into bailout programmes.

The ECB poured cold water on a report over the weekend that it was considering capping inflamed borrowing costs by buying the impacted countries’ bonds if they breached a certain level. Nevertheless hopes for the plans remain high.

Spain gain

Rating firm Moody’s released a report saying that repair programmes in troubled southern euro zone countries were having a significant benefit although overcoming the problems could take several more years.

Bond markets remained in upbeat mood after Spain, one of the countries at the centre of the euro zone crisis, saw a drop in its borrowing costs at an auction of shorter-term 12-18 month debt.

With the appetite for riskier assets slowly reemerging, German government bonds, traditionally favoured by risk-shy investors, waned in early trading outstripped by Italian, Spanish and other debt-strained countries’ bonds.

“We expect Spain to continue outperforming Italy especially in the short end on continued expectations of ... (the) EFSF (bailout fund) and ECB support,” RBS strategists said in a note.

In other markets oil drifted within recent ranges.

Gold prices firmed as investors sought a counterbalance to the prospect of additional monetary stimulus. Platinum prices hovered just below a two-month peak as concerns over unrest at mines in top producer South Africa festered.

One piece of gloomier news came from Britain where public sector finances showed an unexpected deterioration.

“It probably means (that) come November the (British) government is going to have to announce further fiscal tightening,” said Gustavo Bagattini at RBC Capital Markets.

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